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Canada received cheese linked to E. coli outbreak in France



Canada is one of a number of countries that has received raw milk cheese linked to an outbreak of E. coli O26 in France.

French authorities reported 13 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in young children since March 21. HUS is a severe complication of E. coli infection that causes kidney failure and can occur a week or more after the onset of diarrhea.

Several children ate Saint-Félicien and Saint Marcellin cheeses before onset of their symptoms. Three of them have a possible link with the consumption of these cheeses manufactured by Fromagerie Alpine. Saint-Félicien 180-gram and Saint Marcellin 80-gram packages with lot numbers from 032 to 116 have been recalled in France.

A spokesperson from Santé publique France told Food Safety News the agency is looking into reported cases and will communicate in more detail about the investigation when data is consolidated at a later stage. However, French media reported some of the children are still in hospital.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Food has warned that vulnerable groups should not drink unpasteurized, raw milk or eat cheese made with it. This advice applies to children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, older adults and immunocompromised people such as cancer patients. The agency said after the age of five the risk still exists but on a decreasing scale.

Raw milk cheeses include Reblochon, Roquefort, Salers, Brie, Picodon, Pélardon, some camembert, Morbier and Mont d’Or.

In Canada, La Fromagerie Hamel recalled Le Pic brand Saint-Félicien cheese due to possible E. coli O26 contamination. All 180-gram packages with date codes up to and including April 29 are affected.

There haven’t been any reported illnesses associated with the cheese that was distributed in Quebec.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting an investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products.

In New Zealand, Le Marche Francais recalled specific batches of La Fromagerie Alpine brand Saint Felicien and Saint Marcellin cheeses because of E. coli contamination.

La Fromagerie Alpine brand Saint Felicien 180-gram packages and Saint Marcellin 80-gram packages that have best-before dates between March 16 and June 16 are under recall. There haven’t been any E. coli infections reported in New Zealand in relation to the cheeses.

Adam Bradshaw, from the Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses at the World Health Organization, told Food Safety News the international agency is working to ensure involved INFOSAN members have the necessary information to take appropriate risk management measures in their countries.

“INFOSAN has been in contact with the INFOSAN Emergency Contact Point in France to seek further information on the international distribution of implicated products, as well as asked them to share Whole Genome Sequencing information to assist with the identification of cases in recipient countries.”

The International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) is a group of national food safety authorities, managed jointly by FAO and WHO.

The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (AFSCA) in Belgium reported it had received information from French authorities about possible E. coli contamination in the cheeses.

Some of the cheese was distributed in Belgium at various outlets and under different brands. Affected dates run from March 8 to June 3. The implicated cheeses have lot numbers L 032 to L 116. All lot numbers of 200-gram Saint-Romans cheese is also involved.

The AFSCA ordered Belgian companies to withdraw the cheeses from sale and inform customers by displaying notices in stores. The agency advised consumers who bought the cheese not to consume the product and to take it back to the place of purchase.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food in Slovenia reported it was informed by retailer E. Leclerc about the recall of both cheeses in the country because of potential E. coli contamination.

Austria, Czech Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malaysia, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom also received the cheese, according to the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).